The Bible and European mission

Redcliffe has just hosted the annual European Consultation, organised jointly by ourselves, Global Connections and ECM.

This year the focus of the 24-hour event was on three trends in Europe, which were covered in three sessions yesterday: Islam, Migration, and Urbanisation. This morning then comprised of three responses: one from a church perspective, one from a mission agency perspective, and finally, a biblical reflection, which I was asked to do.

I won’t replicate the talk here just yet as it will be available soon on the Global Connections website as an audio file.

My brief was to reflect biblically on the conversations that had gone on throughout the event. I chose three parts of the Bible to do this. To whet your appetite, here is the basic structure. I’ll post again when all the talks are available.

2012 European Consultation

Biblical Reflections on Encountering the Other

Whether it has been in the context of talking about Islam, Migration or Urbanisation, a recurring theme over the course of this consultation has been an exploration of encountering those unlike ourselves. In the case of those of other faiths or none, how do we engage with them, love them, and reach them with the good news of Jesus? In the case of those who already share our faith, how do we join together with them in fruitful ways?


A migrant’s story (2 Kings 5)

Here is someone who has migrated but not of her will. We can only imagine the trauma of her situation. Yet still she seeks shalom for her captor; she still trusted in the power of Yahweh, as well as his ability and willingness to heal this pagan enemy.

I think the story here in 2 Kings 5 can move us to remember that God’s people are often the disempowered in every worldy sense, yet even here (especially here?) God can and does do some extraordinary things to further his purposes.


Applying Wisdom to a European context (Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes)

One rather neglected part of the Bible when it comes to mission thinking and practice is the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament: Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiastes.

In his book, The Mission of God Chris Wright addresses the WL in several ways which I would like to draw on here:

1. Wisdom as ‘international bridge’.

Israel’s WL is part of an international body of WL, the type of which was common across the ANE. Israel was aware of this and was often complimentary of the wisdom of other nations. So, lots of contact between Israel’s wisdom thinkers and those of other cultures.

Wright, p.443: ‘The Wisdom literature is undoubtedly the most overtly international of all materials in the Bible’

This is seen in 2 ways: deals with issues common elsewhere; 2. but Israel did not absorb the nations’ wisdom uncritically

Wright: ‘some missiologists and cross-cultural practitioners suggest that the Wisdom literature provides one of the best bridges for biblical faith to establish meaningful contact and engagement with widely different human cultures around the world.’

‘Israel had no monopoly on all things wise and good and true. Neither, of course, have Christians. Nothing is to be gained from denying, and much missional benefit accrues from affirming, those aspects of any human cultural tradition that are compatible with biblical truth and moral standards.’

‘Missional engagement then may well build a bridge with other cultures through the common international quality of biblical Wisdom, but the bridge in itself is not salvific. Eventually, something must cross the bridge. And that can only be the message of the biblical gospel, of the identity of YHWH and the fill biblical story of his redemption of the world through Jesus Christ.’

2. Wisdom often uses a ‘struggling voice’, which acknowledges uncertainty and promotes honesty.

‘not a safe intramural exercise for Israel. They are issues with which Israel struggles or the sake of the world.’ (Brueggemann, quoted in Wright)


From, ‘I embrace you’ to, ‘I need you’ (Rev. 7)

The heart language you speak will reflect and shape the way you see the world around you, in a way that only that language can do. So, there will be ways of understanding and praising God through Swahili that English just can’t do. And vice versa. There are aspects of God that a French or Hungarian speaker might more readily or fully understand that wouldn’t come so easily to an Albanian. And so it goes on.

‘Christianity seems unique in being the only world religion that is transmitted without the language or originating culture of its founder.’ Lamin Sanneh

That is to say, the Christian faith cannot be contained within one language or culture. It is too big, too wonderful and too gloriously complex to be fully contained and expressed through one language or one cultural expression.

This is not just an issue of how benevolent, accommodating or curious a host culture church should be in relation to the migrant individuals, communities or churches. The very nature of the Gospel, of the incarnation, and of passages like Rev. 7 teach us that we need each other to more fully understand and express our worship to God.

Listen free to A Passion for Mission talks

A Passion for MissionGlobal Connections hold an annual event for UK churches and mission agencies called A Passion for Mission. This year’s event was held in London last month and it focused on the Cape Town Commitment, thinking through what it means for the UK church. Chris Wright was the main speaker, along with responses from Rob Hay (Principal at Redcliffe), Rita Rimkiene and Peter Oyugi (both Redcliffe graduates). Rene Padilla also shared his own inspiring perspective.

Global Connections have made the talks from this and previous years available online, listed below. To listen to or download the talks visit Global Connections’ website

A Passion for Mission 2011 – Chris Wright – Ears to Hear (23740kb)
A Passion for Mission 2011 – Peter Oyugi – Ears to Hear (3185kb)
A Passion for Mission 2011 – Rita Rimkiene – Ears to Hear (8187kb)
A Passion for Mission 2011 – Rob Hay – Ears to Hear (7085kb)
A Passion for Mission 2011 – Rene Padilla – Ears to Hear (812kb)
A Passion for Mission 2010 – Joel Edwards – Just Mission (13719kb)
A Passion for Mission 2009 – Kenneth Brockley – Understanding Contextualisation (125kb)
A Passion for Mission 2009 – Ram Gidoomal – Credible Conversion (20541kb)
A Passion for Mission 2009 – Bryan Knell – Credible Conversion (6660kb)
A Passion for Mission 2009 – Ray Porter – Credible Conversion (11131kb)
A Passion for Mission 2009 – Kumar Rajagopalan – Credible Conversion (12489kb)
A Passion for Mission 2009 – Panel Discussion – Credible Conversion (8343kb)
A Passion for Mission 2009 – Howard Norrish – Credible Conversion (18624kb)
A Passion for Mission 2009 – Testimonies – Credible Conversion (9323kb)
A Passion for Mission 2008 – Lindsay Brown – Shining Like Stars (11425kb)
A Passion for Mission 2008 – Dave Bookless 1 – Mission and the Environment (4631kb)
A Passion for Mission 2008 – Ruth Valerio – Mission and the Environment (5422kb)
A Passion for Mission 2008 – Ruth Valerio handouts (204kb)
A Passion for Mission 2008 – Sian Hawkins – Mission and the Environment (4730kb)
A Passion for Mission 2008 – Dave Bookless 2 – Mission and the Environment (3899kb)
A Passion for Mission 2007 – Chris Neal – Partnership in Mission (8220kb)
A Passion for Mission 2006 – John Piper – Let the Nations be Glad (8154kb)

Chris Wright gives missional reading of Jeremiah at Redcliffe Lecture

I have blogged a few times in anticipation of Chris Wright’s public lecture on The Bible and Mission at Redcliffe College, which he delivered on Tuesday evening. It was a great night providing lots of food for thought (and blogging!).

Chris approached a missional reading of Jeremiah using three of George Hunsberger’s categories for how the term ‘missional hermeneutics’ is used (see GOCN website), and added one of his own:

1. The missional framework of the biblical narrative
2. The missional purpose of the texts
3. The missional locatedness of the readers
4. The missional cost to the messenger

It was fascinating to see his approach applied to an unexpected text like Jeremiah. The question and answer session was revealing as well. I’ve been asked whether the talk will be available.  Here’s the plan…

In written form
The June issue of Encounters (out early next month), Redcliffe’s mission journal, will be on the theme of The Bible and Mission. This will include the transcribed talk plus a number of short (c. 500 words) responses from a variety of contributors from academics to mission ‘practitioners’ (forgive the crude distinction!). Papers will also represent something of the global church with writing reflecting a number of cultural contexts. Sign up to Encounters updates

As a podcast
At the same time as the Encounters issue Slipstream will be making their June podcast available. As it happens June’s featured interviewee is (you’ve guessed it!) Chris Wright. Although the theme is not on Bible and Mission as such, Slipstream have kindly agreed to make the lecture available as an ‘extra’. Sign up to Slipstream updates

A few other observations about the evening…

It was packed! To my knowledge this was the most popular public lecture we have had at the College.

The subject of Bible and Mission is of interest both to the local Church and to mission agencies, both of whom were well represented.

Events are stronger if put on in partnership. Bible Society, Wycliffe UK, Keswick Ministries, Global Connections and Slipstream all played a valued part. Even the refreshments were a collaborative effort, thanks to Ethical Addictions!

Chris Wright Bible and Mission Redcliffe Lecture details

I previously wrote that Revd Dr Chris Wright will be giving this year’s Redcliffe Lecture in World Christianity on the theme of The Bible and Mission. We’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response from all those we’ve spoken to about the event and are delighted to be putting it on in partnership with Bible Society, Wycliffe UK, Keswick Ministries, Global Connections, and Slipstream. It will also form the basis for the September issue of Encounters Mission Ezine. Hope to see you there!

Here are the details, which you can also find on the Redcliffe website:

Redcliffe Lecture in World Christianity:
The Bible and Mission

With Revd Dr Christopher Wright, International Director, Langham Partnership International

Tuesday 12 May 2009
7.00pm to 9.00pm

In partnership with Bible Society, Wycliffe UK, Keswick Ministries, Global Connections, and Slipstream.

The renowned Bible and mission scholar, Revd Dr Chris Wright, will deliver this year’s Redcliffe Lecture in World Christianity, looking at the relationship between the Bible and Mission.

Christians often talk about a ‘Biblical basis for mission’, citing key verses such as Matthew 28:19 (‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…’, NIV). But is there more to it than this? How does mission fit into the whole of the Bible and how does our understanding of Scripture influence our thinking and practice of mission?

Revd Dr Wright has written and spoken on these issues for many years. Among many other plaudits his award-winning The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative has been described as the most important work of this generation on the subject. His combination of scholarship, experience, clarity and passion make him the ideal choice for this lecture.

Revd Dr Christopher Wright is International Director of Langham Partnership International and serves as chair of the Lausanne Committee’s Theology Working Group. After completing an Old Testament PhD and a spell in pastoral ministry Chris taught at Union Biblical Seminary (UBS) in Pune, India, for five years. On his return he joined the faculty at All Nations Christian College and became the Principal there in 1993. He joined Langham in 2001.

Book now
The lecture is free but pre-booking is required. To book your place, contact David Marriott.